Rebecca Lindhurst wins the 2021 Scoutt Prize
It feels good to be rewarded for your hard work, especially when it’s benefiting the community. Congratulations to Rebecca Lindhurst, she was selected by The District of Columbia Bar Foundation as the 2021 Jerrold Scoutt Prize recipient. It’s awarded to attorneys who have a history of working in the nonprofit sector, especially those providing direct services to low-income communities. Rebecca is a Managing Attorney for Bread for the City’s housing practice and Community Lawyering Project and has worked for the organization since 2002. I interviewed Rebecca about receiving this award and why her community work is important for residents in DC.
How did you feel when you got the news?
RL: I was humbled. Over the years I’ve watched in awe as past recipients were honored with this award. The attorneys included some folks I’ve always looked up to, including our own Su Sie Ju and Jeannine Sanford. It feels like such an honor to be included in this group of attorneys who have dedicated their careers to providing services to communities living with low incomes.
What does this award mean for your career?
RL: I knew I wanted to be a legal services attorney when I started law school. Being able to do this work with Bread for the City and with our legal services partners has been an amazing privilege. I can often be a dissenting voice in some of the spaces where we talk about systemic issues and it feels a bit like this award is an acknowledgment that I deserve a seat at the table. I hope it allows me to keep pushing the work in thoughtful and innovative ways, especially as we continue to bring attention to racism as a major cause of poverty.
How meaningful is this work to you?
RL: It’s incredibly important and meaningful. There are many elements to this work, but the larger purpose of ensuring that all of our neighbors, regardless of income, are housed is the main motivating factor. We don’t always acknowledge how important it is to have a roof over your head. Through this work, we not only advance individual cases of DC residents who are unstably housed but also advance the larger issue of affordable housing and the right to housing for all DC residents. Even though Bread for the City is doing great work, the District doesn’t do all that it can to lift up its lowest-income residents. While there are ups and downs and wins and losses in this work, even if I help one client remain housed I can continue to fight another day.
In what way has Bread for the City helped you win this award?
RL: Bread for the City is an organization that feels like home and like a family. I think back to the naive attorney I was when I started and how much our legal clinic has grown and matured. I’m thankful for the 3 legal clinic directors who each mentored me in their own unique way. I’m also grateful for George and Jeannine who continue to push Bread on our racial equity journey. I feel very lucky because the organization has always been generous in allowing me to think outside the box. For example, when I arrived at Bread, none of our lawyers were representing groups of tenants or tenant associations. When I went to Vytas (the legal director at the time) and proposed the idea of taking on the representation of a tenant association, he immediately said yes. We currently represent several tenant associations and have even helped to form several limited-equity co-operatives. That work has helped thousands of tenants remain housed and is so impactful.
Perhaps my biggest push was our Community Lawyering Project. I had worked with organizers in the past and I knew that they were an integral part of helping a community achieve success and create lasting change. After receiving the funding to hire an attorney to start the project, I finally got my wish and was given the green light to hire a community organizer. Having an organizer work with the project allows us to do our work through a different lens and centers the needs of the community. And, because of our work, Bread has expanded our organizing work into a full blown Advocacy department. I’m proud of both our community lawyering and landlord-tenant practices and the way they have grown and evolved over the years. Bread has supported our growth at every point along the way.